Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Being an Expert

The Master of the Pot

One thing you can usually say about an artist's work: It will change.

I've seen lots of my fellow potter's work and progress and change over the years.

And I have observed that a clay artist's works can change more radically and sometimes more quickly than other disciplines.

A contributing factor may found in the very nature of artists who chose to work in clay.

Maybe it is because of the versatility of clay.

Maybe clay artists are naturally disposed to be more inquisitive and adventurous than, say, a painter or printmaker.

Maybe it is because of the material we work with; the huge range of raw materials and variety of techniques available for potters to explore.

Many of us come to clay from a variety of other disciplines.

Clay is very receptive to the application of other techniques. It can be woven, printed on, painted, drawn on, paired with metals and woods, sand blasted, etched, patinated, etc.

My interest in clay has always been exploring it's versatility. Building from slabs, wheel throwing, design and solving problems.

I spent time doing historical research. I was very lucky to be in places where I could see actual examples of many kinds of examples from prehistoric to modern works.

I liked trying to duplicate some of the techniques just by working out how things were done. I'm not one who likes to go to workshops. Workshops sometimes turn out little "Mini-Mes" of the teacher. However, if you learn the technique, it behoves you to make it your own and re-interpret the technique into your own style.

On the other hand, some artists find a formula that works for them and they stick with it. They make the same thing over and over again. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. If you have a good thing going and it intrigues you, go for it. There's lots to be said for establishing a trademark.

In some ways, it's very good because they become closely identified with a certain form or style and it becomes their identity. In the world of art merchandising, a quantitative source is a valued thing. The public at large and art dealers can pin down and put a price tag on easily-identified signature work. It fits into the commercial framework.

There is no 'right way' to make art. The key is figuring out what works for you.

Become the expert of  YOUR work.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Handles are an interesting aspect of clay.

Here's an early experiment with thinking 'way outside the box for a handle which actually acts as a sculptural component.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Some Books are for tasting……..

I ran across a photo of a commission I did some years ago for a library renovation in my town.
The theme I based the piece upon was a quote by Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626:

Some books are to be tasted,

Others to be swallowed,

And some few to be chewed and digested.

Depicted on a plate were tiny book hires d'orvures, a bowl of Book Soup with a spoon labeled, Curiosity on the handle.  

Not shown are the wooden base that included the quote and the casing that enclosed the sculpture.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

CLAYART - The Organization and Internet Discussion Site

CLAYART is an internet community of artists, publishers, gurus, authors, equipment experts, educators, amateurs, gallery owners, hobbyists, newbies and old hands.

The physical boundaries have no end. Anywhere that an internet and computer are available, CLAYART exists. It is one enormous club. There are no dues, no initiation, no jury, only the requirements of civility and everyday grace you would exhibit and experience.

After a NCECA convention in Las Vegas about nearly 20 years ago, an email discussion group that would evolve into CLAYART was formed to carry on the dialogue that had been started by the conference. The initial group wanted to continue the flow of information about all things clay. 

It is a great resource receptive to beginners and old pros alike.  Ask the CLAYART "Brain" an open question. The avalanche of replies or opinions will almost fall from the screen. We are a helpful and giving folk in the main.

A subject archive can be accessed for research on past discussions and questions. 

Check out the easy enrollment page below, then sit back and observe the dialogs until you're comfortable, but it you have a bad problem or want to respond right away, that's okay too.

Mel Jacobson (or "The Mayor") has honchoed the mob for many years; basically hands-off moderators run the background.  Mel always knows when 'send us to our rooms' when things occasionally get too hot or protracted. In other words, telling us to 'ride that dead horse outta here.' But in a good way.

Make a visit by joining. (link below) Get your toes wet. Follow the directions and wait. It won't be long until your mailbox will be bubbling with a plethora of subjects and one is surely going to interest you.

Beside being an internet discussion group, CLAYART is also a sub-community that meets within the yearly NCECA (National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts) convention.  

Depending on the year and circumstances, CLAYART secures a large meeting-type room at the location for the group meeting place  throughout the time of the convention in order to relax, talk, show our work, trade, present mini-programs and meet in real-time with members  manifest in the flesh who we have come to know from the ether. 

At the end of the convention, we have a mug exchange drawing which is great fun.

We all walk around NCECA with our nametags showing a hint of who we are. Putting names to faces is great.  each other amid the masses. (People involved in clay are for the most part a truly friendly lot anyway.) 

CLAYART mailing list

Mel's page - http://www.melpots.com   New Book http//www.21stcenturykilns.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

And Now for Something Completely Different

All through my life, I have made drawings. It is the first expression of art for most people. I was lucky enough to have access to miles of big paper due to the fact that my familiy's owning a dry good store and wrapped most things in lovely tan paper reeled off of a big roll stowed under the sales counter.

Never the less, I must admit am AM a paper hoarder. I admit it. And I like nothing better than to use colored pencils or watercolor with a lovely piece of tinted or heavy hunk of paper.

Here's some of my work:

Colored pencil on tan paper

Guam Palm

Colored Pencil

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ever Wonder?

Do you ever wonder where your work wound up?

Ever want it back?

This happens to me sometimes. I made a sugar and creamer once - strictly experimental piece - that I sold at a show. Thank heavens I took a good photo for future reference.

This little "Tea for Two" pot also went and in this case, I knew the woman who bought it would use it. And that feels really good.

One piece that I think I will always wonder about is a large square teapot. It had been included in the first book, 100 Teapots.  It was sold before the book came out and try as I could, I could never find the new owner to let them know their teapot's image had been published.

Too bad galleries don't help artists track their buyers. I suppose they assume the two parties will go around them on sales, but that's wrong thinking. Cooperation and good communications between buyers, galleries and sellers has great potential to encourage even more sales for everybody.

I would be happy to let my buyers know where they could find my work. I'm sure galleries would appreciate artists who tell their buyers about the gallery or a show. And I know buyers appreciate information about where to find more of your work.  Think positively!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Eye Candy - Teapots

Collection of web images for teapot shapes:

Monday, June 15, 2015


In this blog, I have shown pitcher forms before, but have not gone into detail about how they are made or how the form has evolved during the making.

This is a very small free form hand pitcher made from a slab with impressed design using a swizzle stick, a sea shell, and a bit of styrofoam packing material.

To make the pitcher, I cut out a bottom freehand in an oval-ish shape, then curved the body of the pitcher slab around the edge of the bottom to fit. I used the clay worm method to seal the sides and bottom together, closing the form with one seam at the front where the spout will go.

I cut a V shape in the front to fit the small hand-formed spout. I left evidence of the cut. I liked that and made a note in my mind to repeat it.

The glaze is celadon and the body is porcelain.

This is a later version of a more distinct surface treatment. This time I added two new patterns; a combed effect. The checked texture is from a scrap of plastic that I picked up in a parking lot. Must have been a part of a tail light….

The basic construction is the same as the hand pitcher shown above, but the body shape was drawn out on a piece of paper before assembly.

There is only one seam in this pitcher also under the spout. This is the beginning of new thinking about spout shapes.

During assembly, I decided there was too much stress on the dip area between the spout section and the back section, so I added a reinforcement 'button' to keep it from splitting. It makes a nice transition element in the design.

The hand fits nicely around the back of this pitcher with the curve resting easily on the hand between the thumb and fingers.

The body is porcelain and the glaze is a semi transparent rutile.

This little guy is also small. It is one of my first tries at hand formed pitchers. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I sold it. But at least I did have the gumption to photograph it.

In this case, I made the seam down the side instead of under the spout and cut a hole for the spout.

The same technique of cutting out the base first, then forming the body from one slab piece was followed and the spout is also hand-formed.

I pooched out the bottom a bit to give it weight.

This piece served as a glaze test as well. I liked the texture of the slab roller matt showing under the glaze. I named this piece "Black Nose" in my mind.

Another look at an earlier slabbed approach. Basically taking the same form and making two vessels into a creamer and sugar.

The forms are a bit more free and I was playing around more with altering the body and adding feet made of rolled clay.

It is also a glaze experiment using a white body and drizzling a dark brown glaze over edges of the form.

This is a medium sized pitcher and a very early piece. My main experiment was working with the relationship of the handle and the spout.

I wanted them to be the same size and I used the same trusty texture-making tools here. But the difference is the weight and thickness of the glaze. So the pattern comes off a bit more muted.

And the handle is the beginning of thoughts about using rolled clay and the attachment process for a vessel.

This is a larger pitcher form, but here in the the watering can version. I am still experimenting with the spout and handle idea and also using texture on the exterior.

The thicker glaze mutes the surface more than I wanted, but the ideas of spout and handle are still being explored.

This piece is also in porcelain and the glaze is a version of weathered bronze.

The seam is still at the front of the piece and the spout is cut in and attached.

A new approach; using a thrown form and keeping the handle/spout forms only refining them. This time I'm cutting both the places where the handle attaches to the top rim as well as where the spout attaches.

I again used the reinforcing 'button' at the split for the top of the handle.  The spout is laid into the front split and blended into the body of the pitcher.

The new spout form is an imitation of a tropical leaf form; designed to shed water. It works very well.

I love the break in the glaze. It is Coyote Crocodile glaze fired at cone 5 OX. This is a slightly larger pitcher and it's a keeper.

The next pitcher is the same technique and form, but what a difference a glaze makes!

A slight modification to the form is the elevation of the base with the use of a bevel tool at the end of throwing. It improves the overall look of the piece, I think.

The clay is porcelain and the glaze is three different shinos.

This is one of my favorite pitchers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Become Master of the Pot--Advice to Artists

My Advice to Artists

Keep your best work.

Consider making two of each thing and keeping one. Keep the better of the two and sell the other.

If you hit a creative snag, get out of the studio, go do something else, visit a museum, look at other artist's websites, go back over your notes from firings, look at your photo archive. Visit galleries, look at art books.

Your mind may be digesting and assimilating your art. 
It may be a needed part of your creative process. 
Let it happen. When you are ready to create again, you will know it. 


Keep learning. Don’t rely on somebody else to teach everything you need to know. Teach yourself whenever you can, you’ll learn better that way.

Take notes.

Photograph everything you make.

Follow every impulse.

Even if it seems crazy, do it. 

Do it, even though it has not been done before by you or anyone else.

Learn your flaws and work to correct them.

Search out your own truth.

Avoid looking at ugly. 

It's okay to steal, but only an IDEA. Take it as a springboard and make it your own.

Listen to everybody. Ignore bad advice. Keep only what feeds you.

Set your standards high. I mean HIGH. So high you will always have to chase them. 

Keep returning to your own themes.

Find your market niche.  

Find your flock. Only other artists understand your life as an artist. 

Don't fool yourself by thinking, "I'll remember that next time." You might not and it will be lost to you.

If a piece doesn’t sell, pack it up and don’t look at it for a long time. Then unpack it and look at it again. Decide then if it should be kept, sold, or destroyed.

Don’t offer anything for sale you would be embarrassed to see again.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Antique Loom for Sale

This is an antique Rocker-Beater loom.  When it is all assembled and ready to work, it is a thing of beauty.

It dates from around 1850--maybe even earlier.

The wood is hand-hewn yellow pine and probably came from the southern areas of the east coast.

I found it in Missouri in the late 1960's. It had been in an old mill before that.

I wove many a rag rug on this beautiful thing. And made a few tapestries as well.

You can see why it is called a Rocker/Beater loom. The beater bar swings on this rocking chair type arm. The bottom is attached to the frame of the loom by way of a thin-cut flexible piece of wood which is attached to the frame on one end and to the rocker at the other end.

The dog is all hand-cut from wood and works well.

The only metal on this loom is a late-applied ring someone added at a later date to stabilize another dog.

All the heddles were hand-tied cotton string. There are small holes on the large side pieces where nail can be inserted as a guide to tiring new heddles. There are no heddles on the loom at the present, but they are easy to make and attach.

Also, the pegging on the warp beam has been removed in order to change the loom back to it's original design.

This loom is for sale. If you are interested in buying it, please contact me via the comments section of this blog.

For a detailed story of how I found the loom, go to the index at the side of the blog and select "Looms".

I live in western Washington state in the U.S. Shipping would have to be arranged and paid for by the buyer.

For more information about historic looms, go to http://www.ohio.edu/people/deanr/rockerbeater/loomalbum.html.

If you or any of your friends are interested in the loom, please contact me via the comments section.